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Public hearing 31 - Vision for an inclusive Australia - Day 5

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CHAIR:  Good morning, everybody, both people within the hearing room and those who are following these proceedings on the live stream. Welcome to the fifth day of Public hearing 31 of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of people with disability. This is, in fact, the final day of the Royal Commission's hearings for 2022. The subject matter of this hearing is vision for an inclusive Australia. 

Just before I ask Commissioner Mason to make the Acknowledgement of Country. I note that Commissioner Bennett is unable to join us today but she will, of course, follow the proceedings in due course by looking either at the live stream or following the transcript. Commissioner Mason. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: We acknowledge Meanjin Brisbane, we recognise the Country north and south of the Brisbane River, of the home of both Turrbal and Jagera nations. We acknowledge the Turrbal and Jagera nations as the traditional owners and custodians of the land upon which the Royal Commission is sitting. We acknowledge and pay our deep respect to Elders past and present, and we acknowledge First Nations young people who one day will take their place as Elders. We extend that respect to all First Nations people and acknowledge their enduring connection to land, sky, seas and waterways. We pay our deep respect to First Nations people here today, and who are following this Public hearing online, on the mainland and on islands, including Tasmania and in the Torres Strait, especially Elders, parents and young people with disability. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much, Commissioner Mason. Yes, Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN:  Good morning, Commissioners, and good morning to everybody.

CHAIR:  I just note we seem temporarily to have lost the transcript but I think we should continue. 

MS EASTMAN:  Do you want to wait?

CHAIR:  I'll just check.  Is that okay?

COMMISSIONER McEWIN:  I'm okay to keep going.  Thank you. 

CHAIR:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  Good morning, Commissioners, to everybody in the room and those following the proceedings online. The witnesses today will be representative of the Commonwealth.  We'll hear from Ms Frame and then Ms Mitchell, and then our final witness of the day will be Julia Hales. She will join us remotely from her home in Western Australia, Perth. So I think Ms Frame is in the room. Thank you, Ms Frame, for joining us and I think you were going to take an oath; is that right? 

MS FRAME:  That's right, yes.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission today to give evidence. We appreciate the assistance you have provided and will provide to the Royal Commission. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my Associate, who is sitting just in front of me, she will administer   I think it's the affirmation, is it   the oath.  I'm sorry, the oath.

THE ASSOCIATE:  I will read you the oath. At the end please say "Yes", or "I do". Do you swear by almighty God that the evidence you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

MS FRAME:  I do.


CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Frame. Ms Eastman will now ask you some questions. 


MS EASTMAN:  So I'll just confirm you are Alison Frame?

MS FRAME:  That's right. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you are the Deputy Secretary, Social Policy Group in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet?

MS FRAME:  Yes, that's right.

MS EASTMAN:  And I understand that you're soon to move to a new position; is that right?

MS FRAME:  Yes, that's right.

MS EASTMAN:  You've made a statement dated 25 November. Have you got a copy of the statement with you?

MS FRAME:  I do.

MS EASTMAN:  And are there any changes to the statement?

MS FRAME:  No, there are not.

MS EASTMAN:  And are its contents true and correct?

MS FRAME:  They are.

MS EASTMAN:  Now, you have said to us in the statement when the Royal Commission asked what does PM and C   if I can use the shorthand expression   have responsibility for with respect to implementing or evaluating Australia's Disability Strategy, and the answer was the Australian Government's Department of Social Services, DSS, is responsible for implementing and evaluating the ADS; is that right? 

MS FRAME:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And so do I take it by that answer that PM and C does not have any responsibility for implementing or evaluating the Strategy? 

MS FRAME:  PM and C sits on some committees that are involved in evaluating the Strategy, but we are not the lead department. The lead department is the Department of Social Services.

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of any role whatsoever within PM and C does the Department have   your Department have any oversight of the way in which the Strategy or the ADS is rolled out throughout the Commonwealth Government agencies and departments?

MS FRAME.  As I said, we participate in Commonwealth committees that are considering the implementation and monitoring of the Strategy, so we have a role in that regard. We also have a role in responding to issues with the implementation of the Strategy if they are raised directly with us, either by colleagues in Department of Social Services with whom we speak very regularly, or also by colleagues in state and territory Premier and Cabinet Departments.

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. So, I want to ask you about the role of PM and C as a department within government. The website describes the role of the department in this way:

    "Our role is to provide fresh thinking and creative advice to government. We contribute ideas on the many and varied issues facing Australia, taking into consideration the views and opinions of a range of stakeholders across private, public, not for profit and community sectors. The PM and C team provides pragmatic advice and finds solutions to problems so that government policies can be effectively designed and implemented. We give particular weight to the issues that are important to the Prime Minister. Our focus, put in its simplest terms, is to find new ways to improve the lives of Australians."

So, that's directly off the website as at this morning. So, you are aware that PM and C describes itself in this way?

MS FRAME:  Yes, I am. 

MS EASTMAN:  Does this suggest that PM and C, as a department within government, sees itself as a department where innovation and creativity in the way in which policy is developed and the advice to government sits? 

MS FRAME:  It's one of the departments, yes, but other departments, line agencies   in the Commonwealth, we refer to them as line agencies   they wouldn't consider that PM and C was the only department that was looking for innovative responses to policy dilemmas. They would consider they had lead roles for that within their own policy domains, but PM and C at an integrated level across the government do the same, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And is there a perception within government that PM and C, obviously reporting directly to and working with the Prime Minister, really takes a lead in policy development across the Commonwealth?

MS FRAME:  No, I don't think so. As I said, line agencies, so that there are many of those   Energy, Social Services, Health   they lead in the policy domains. That is the way government is designed. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of expert policy officers and they lead within their policy areas. PM and C provide another layer of policy innovation and input and, in effect, provide some contestability around that as well.

MS EASTMAN:  What do you mean by "contestability"?

MS FRAME:  Contestability in that we may challenge a department   in line with the statement you made about our role, we may challenge a department confidentially in the context of bilateral discussions with information that we have or a policy approach that's been applied by a state and territory government or an international context that we're aware of, and raise that with the department and say, you know, "You're proposing this, have you considered this approach? This is something else we think you could consider. Have you considered that?" They would be very routine discussions within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet with colleagues in line agencies.

MS EASTMAN:  If, as the website says, your focus put in its simplest terms is to find new ways to improve the lives of all Australians, you'd accept that that includes the 18 percent of Australians who identify as living with disability? 

MS FRAME:  Yes. Definitely. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of   I assume you're familiar with the Strategy, the ADS; is that right?

MS FRAME:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  In terms of the object, objects, purposes and vision of the ADS, that is all about finding new ways to improve the lives of all   of Australians with disabilities. Do you agree with that? 

MS FRAME:  I do. 

MS EASTMAN:  In terms of looking at the overall policy work that occurs within PM and C, that a lot of the policy work, particularly the areas that you have responsibility for in social policy, touch upon the rights and interests of Australians with disability. Do you agree with that? 

MS FRAME:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, if this is helpful   and Commissioners have a copy of this   I'll give you the organisational chart from the PM and C's website, which I think is dated 5 December this year but printed this morning. Just to assist the Commissioners to understand what PM and C does as a department within government, are we right in understanding that underneath the Secretary, Professor Davis, essentially, the department has four core areas:  A Domestic Policy Group, the National Security and International Policy Group, Governance and Corporate Group and then APS Reform. So they're the four broad areas?


MS EASTMAN:  And then in Domestic Policy, there's three what I might say sub areas:  Economic, Industry and Resilience, Social Policy, which is the area that you head up; is that right? 

MS FRAME:  That's right. 

MS EASTMAN:  And NDIS Review Sector, who is headed up by James Kelly. So if I just look at the areas for which you have responsibility in relation to Social Policy, under the organisational chart sits the Office for Women, and then are a number of aspects to the work of the Office of Women in relation to Economic Security, Safety and International programs and Engagement. There is also broad   the broad description of Social Policy covering Education and Immigration, Social Services and First Nations. There is Intergovernmental Relations and Reform, and that looks at issues with respect to Commonwealth/State relations, Aged Care and Health. There is then Policy Innovation and Projects, covering Policy Project Task Force Office and Behavioural Economics Team, and I think I might have missed out under the Intergovernmental Relations, the Care and Support Economy Task Force. 

Then there's the separate area of NDIS Review. So, Ms Frame, stepping back and looking at that overall, and take it that we are looking at this from an outsider's perspective, these areas of important Social Policy that sit within PM and C all touch on the interests and rights of people with disabilities. I'm taking that even from the title of the areas. Would you agree with that? 

MS FRAME:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And there is a particular focus on age, health, women, education, immigration and NDIS Review that they are all areas which have very specific interest to people with disability. I'll put it this way:  for example, we know that the statistics indicate that women with disability experience higher levels of violence and abuse.  We know in health that people with intellectual disability have a lower life expectancy than the broader community. So in these areas where social policy makes its way into PM and C, are we right in understanding that this might be described in laymen's terms as the pointy end of policy? I want to ask why people with disability are not in the pointy end of policy?

MS FRAME:  I don't   if I can just ask, I don't understand what you mean by "the pointy end of policy"?

MS EASTMAN:  This is the area that attracts the position of the Prime Minister as the most senior leader in government. This is the pointy end of policy, isn't it? This is why these are areas that are found in PM and C in the area of social policy. 

MS FRAME:  I don't think I agree with that statement. I think disability issues, as you have outlined, are covered and considered as part of all of these groups. There is an enormous focus on disability in the Office for Women in line with what you reference the statistics there about women with disabilities being   experiencing more rates of violence. There is a very big focus on the disability workforce and services received by people with disabilities in the care and support economy, in aged care and health and some recent work that those teams have done for the National Cabinet. 

There is an enormous focus on people with disabilities and moves around changes to construction codes, to improve accessibility standards and moving people from hospital beds. I am just suggesting   or not suggesting, making clear that there is an enormous amount of very specific consideration of disability issues, including First Nations group, for example, Policy Projects Task Force do a lot of work on disability projects as do BETA. So it pervades everything, and I don't think it is accurate to interpret the titles as meaning that disability is not an enormous focus within these structures. 

MS EASTMAN:  But your Domestic Policy Group and Social Policy Group does not report routinely on disability or disability outcomes; is that right? 

MS FRAME:  We would have a lot of consideration of disability issues. The   

MS EASTMAN:  Sorry to interrupt, but I'm just asking you about reporting. 

MS FRAME:  Reporting on   do you mean the Disability Strategy? 

MS EASTMAN:  On the Strategy or in the annual report. Let me give you an example. I've looked at the annual report this morning and the word "disability" appears 24 times over 200 pages. Most of those references are either to the number of people with disability employed in PM and C or the fact that there is the ADS. So, there's no reporting specifically on disability in PM and C's annual report so where would we find PM and C reporting on disability? 

MS FRAME:  You would find PM and C engaging and making recommendations on issues for people with disabilities in national government   sorry, National Cabinet recommendations, and communications in   and also from the Office for Women, all of the areas, in fact. But specifically reporting on the National Disability Strategy would be provided in detail through the Department of Social Services and also reflected in website reporting that's recently commenced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. So, there are different avenues within the Australian Government where there is very detailed reporting on the National Disability Strategy but that does not appear, as you say, in PM and C's annual report. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, Ms Mitchell in her statements provided us with some documents. And one document is a document that speaks to corporate plans within government and suggests that other entities within governments and particular departments are encouraging to increase their focus on people with disability in their planning and reporting where appropriate, and it speaks to both corporate plans and annual reports. I need to give you a copy of this. So, Commissioners, this is in tab 9A in Part C, first volume. So, we   and I'll ask Ms Mitchell about this shortly. So, this document says:

    "To support the ADS, the Australian Government agreed key entities will have an increased focus on disability in their corporate plans and annual reports."

And you will see that corporate plans is then addressed and annual reports. So, I assume the reference to annual reports is something akin to the annual report that PM and C would publish? 

MS FRAME:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And as I said, a quick look at the PM and C annual report and just doing a word search on disability suggests that disability by reference appears about 24 times. Looking at this document, though, if you look at the appendix   and these are the particular departments or agencies within government who are linked to the priority areas as they appear in the ADS. So, if you take it from me that the reference to "priority areas" is that second column. PM and C is not included in the list of lead ministers or in the departments that are encouraged to either have corporate plans or to report to disability. You agree with that? 

MS FRAME:  I'm just looking at it now but I   

MS EASTMAN:  I'll let you have a look. I don't know if you've seen this before. 

MS FRAME:  I can't see   on the documents you have provided me, I can't see PM and C listed in the appendix. 

MS EASTMAN:  Given what you've described a moment ago about the work that does occur in PM and C with respect to disability, would you expect to see PM and C to be included in the departments or agencies of government that would report with respect to disability issues, either in a corporate plan or an annual? 

MS FRAME:  That may be. But certainly I'd just clarify, Office for Women reporting would appear in the PM and C annual report as part of the PM and C portfolio. It may be in the future, and in line with work prioritised by the National Cabinet, it may be that there would be increased reporting if there were specific tasks related to people with disabilities being progressed through the National Cabinet. 

MS EASTMAN:  I accept you don't have oversight of the NDIS Review Secretariat but isn't that, in a sense, the raison d'etre of the NDIS Review secretariat?  That is exclusively disability, is it not? 

MS FRAME:  Yes. Can you just clarify what's your question there, with that one? 

MS EASTMAN:  So, in terms of looking at reporting and I think you said in the future matters that might touch on disability, I'm looking at the corporate structure. 

MS FRAME:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  And under the domestic, there's a separate part which just deals with NDIS Review, described as NDIS Review Secretariat. My question to you is you'd agree, would you not, that the NDIS Review Secretariat has as its raison d'etre disability. 

MS FRAME:  Yes. And I would expect that in   it's only recently commenced, of course, so it wouldn't be in the current annual report, but I would expect more detailed reporting on   from the Secretariat team to be reflected in the annual report pertaining to the year in which they are positioned and configured within PM and C. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you would expect that if PM and C has responsibility for NDIS review, that you would expect to see some alignment with PM and C reporting to the ADS. You'd agree with that? 

MS FRAME:  I would just question that PM and C is not leading the NDIS review. The Secretariat support is being provided from PM and C and it is being led independently. As you know it's an independent review reporting to the Disability Reform Ministers' Meeting. So, it is the Secretariat and the support for that review that is located within PM and C but not the   you know, the independent reviewers are reporting to the Disability Reform Minister' Meeting and not within the department. 

MS EASTMAN:  But important enough to put the NDIS Review Secretariat in PM and C and not in DSS? 

MS FRAME:  That's the decision of the government, yes. That was the decision of the government to put the Review Secretariat within the   

MS EASTMAN:  That's recognising the importance of this policy work as being matters that go to   as I raised earlier   of new ways to improve the lives of Australians. This is one example of putting the lives of Australians with disability into PM and C because of its importance; is that right? 


MR HODGE:  I'm sorry. Could I just raise the issue about the ambiguity of that question and what exactly is being put. Is Ms Frame being asked what the government's reason was for putting the Secretariat of the review into PM and C, rather than into DSS, or is she being asked   because there was a compound question where she was asked does that reflect innovation. And I'm just quite concerned that we separate out the review as independent, the Secretariat as within   

CHAIR:  Yes, I think we understand that. I rather understood the question to ask Ms Frame whether Ms Frame agrees that, looking at it objectively, this is a conclusion that can be drawn about the reason for putting the NDIS issue within PM and C. Is that the sense in which you asked the question? 

MS EASTMAN:  It's probably always more simple and that is if the NDIS Review Secretariat is in PM and C and not elsewhere, be it DSS or otherwise, that may be indicative of the importance of this work to government.

CHAIR:  Alright. Maybe put that question again to Ms Frame in those terms. Did you follow what Ms Eastman just said?

MS FRAME:  I did. I did, sir. It may. There may also be other reasons that the government took into consideration in making that decision, but, yes, in response to your question, it may. 

MS EASTMAN:  But are you aware of what other reasons?

MR HODGE:     can I say that again there's going to be an issue potentially which I'll just raise. Ms Frame might need to think about whether this is cabinet in confidence, if she's being asked to comment upon the reasons that particular decisions were made. 

MS EASTMAN:  I'm not asking any witness to trespass into cabinet in confidence or any other privileged matters. 

CHAIR:  Let us understand the question   do you have an understanding that there are other reasons but independently of any information that you have gained through cabinet in confidence or procedures. 

MS FRAME:  Sorry, could you just repeat the question? 

MS EASTMAN:  So, you said there may be other reasons and I asked you what those other reasons are, and Mr Hodge is concerned I might be asking you about matters touching on cabinet confidentiality and privilege. 

MS FRAME:  There may shall other reasons and I may not even be aware of those reasons. So, I'm answering as much as I am aware of and you asked me   I think your question was is the fact that the Secretariat team is in PM and C a reflection of the importance of disability issues to the Australian Government. And my answer was it may be. And I would go on to say it's the NDIS as a scheme and an assessment of whether it is delivering in line with the expectations established by all governments when that scheme commenced is very obviously a very critical issue across all Australian governments at the moment. So, it is a reflection of the importance of a well functioning NDIS that the Secretariat team is in Prime Minister and Cabinet providing support to an independent review of the NDIS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. I want to move to another topic and that is are you familiar with Targeted Action Plans under the ADS? 

MS FRAME:  No. Not into any great detail. 

MS EASTMAN:  Are you aware whether PM and C has taken any steps to identify priority areas for it with respect to any Targeted Action Plans? Or can you not answer that because you don't know what Targeted Action Plans there are? 

MS FRAME:  I'm   I might need to get clarification. I am aware that my officers in these branches have very regular discussions with colleagues in the Department of Social Services about a whole range of issues, including disability issues, very regularly, and it may well be that they frequently have discussions about Targeted Action Plans. 

MS EASTMAN:  But you don't know yourself. 

MS FRAME:  I'm not aware, or nothing has been specifically raised with me. We discussed this Targeted Action Plan. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. Should   do you think, the PM and C should be involved identifying areas relevant to PM and C that might be relevant to action plans to give effect to the objectives and priorities in the ADS? 

MS FRAME:  Are you able to provide me a definition of action plans, please, or some further information?

MS EASTMAN:  I'll show you some action   to go   so, you're aware, aren't you, that the ADS sets out a broad strategy. 

MS FRAME:  Yes, I am. 

MS EASTMAN:  And there are a number of components all part of the architecture in the way the ADS works. You're aware of that. 

MS FRAME:  I am. 

MS EASTMAN:  And part of that is setting up particular advisory committees and the work of the Ministers coming together as part of a Reform Council, you're aware of that? 

MS FRAME:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  You're aware, aren't you, that the ADS has an Outcomes Framework? 

MS FRAME:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  You're aware, aren't you, that the ADS requires states and territories and, in some cases, local government to buy into working towards meeting the priorities and objectives of the ADS? 

MS FRAME:  I am, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  But you were not aware that to do that there is a vehicle through a Targeted Action Plan. You weren't aware of that; is that right? 

MS FRAME:  It's not the   it's not the way I receive reporting from the Australian Disability Strategy. 

MS EASTMAN:  So you were not aware that there are now five Targeted Action Plans that have been developed and were, I think, some released when the ADS was released and some released in more recent times? You weren't aware of that? 

MS FRAME:  It may have come across my desk. I   as I said to you, my offices may well indeed be heavily involved in that. I don't know. 

MS EASTMAN:  I'm sorry about that. Well, yesterday we had representatives of Queensland and I asked them some questions about the Community Attitudes Targeted Action Plan and I'll just see if we can get a copy. Commissioners, you'll find that in Bundle C behind tab 20. We'll just get you a copy, Ms Frame. 

MS FRAME:  Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  So the Community Attitudes Targeted Action Plan is one of the action plans developed under the ADS. It says that:

    "This action plan sets out the key actions to improve community attitudes towards people with disability to influence behaviour."

And the actions are set for 2021 to '22 and then 2023/24. 

CHAIR:  If you're looking for    I'm perfectly happy to provide a copy. 

MS FRAME:  Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. If you want to take a moment to have a look at it and tell me if you've seen this before. 

MS FRAME:  My answer would be the same as previously which is I may have, but   

MS EASTMAN:  Alright.

MS FRAME:  Actually I can't say definitively. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. So, if I ask you to turn to page 4, this is where the Australian Government says:

    "This is what we are going to do by way of actions as part of the Targeted Action Plan."

And the Australian Government on the issue of community attitudes has picked up three objectives. Objective 2 is:

    "Key professional workforces are able to confidently and positively respond to people with disability."

Objective 3:

    "To increase representation of people with disability in leadership roles."

And objective 4:

    "Improving community attitudes to positively impact on policy priorities under the Strategy."

Do you see that?

MS FRAME:  Yes, I do. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the process is that government   the government identifies what action it will take with respect to the particular objectives. So, you'll see there in action item 2.1:

    "Developing disability confidence in key professionals."

And that will be an investment of 2.5 million in:

"...building disability inclusion practices into pre  and post education and training." 

See that?

MS FRAME:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, then there's a time line by which it will be achieved and an indicator as to what the expected outcome might be for that action item. So, that's the way the action plans operate. Identify an objective, identify an action, a timeline and then an indicator outcome. And then that becomes relevant for reporting into the progress overall of the Targeted Action Plans. So, is this something that you were aware of in terms of how these action items operate within government? 

MS FRAME:  Definitely. It's very   this is customary that there are strategies, with objectives and specific actions. They are allocated to departments with timeframes and outcome measures. 

MS EASTMAN:  If one of the objectives of the ADS is to change and improve community attitudes towards people with disability, would you agree that leadership from the absolute top of government to change attitudes would be an important factor in working towards achieving an outcome of change to improved attitudes to people with disability? 

MS FRAME:  Yes, I would. But can I clarify, what do you mean by "top of government"? 

MS EASTMAN:  The Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Department? 

MS FRAME:  I would just go further to say that I would also consider top of government to be a Cabinet Minister with specific accountability and responsibility for programs and massive expenditures in their space, which, you know, whether it's health, education, disability, whatever it is, but that is also the top of government in terms of the cabinet system of government and the way responsibilities and accountabilities are arranged. 

MS EASTMAN:  But in terms of leading from the top, and the position, responsibility and power that the Prime Minister has and the Prime Minister's Department and PM and C, in terms of how the public might perceive leadership from the top, it starts with the Prime Minister, does it not? 

MS FRAME:  As I've said, I think all   there are ministers assigned very specific responsibilities with full leadership in that space. That is how cabinet responsibilities are arranged. I'm just questioning the assumption that   just I'll ask if this is your question   if the Prime Minister's not specifically responsible then there's not leadership from the top of government? 

MS EASTMAN:  No, I'm not suggesting that. I'm putting it in a way that maybe an average person would look at things. When an average person   and assume this includes people with disability   look to government and look to leadership, they generally assume that the Prime Minister is the leader and that leadership in the way government operates in this country can sometimes take its tone and its lead from the Prime Minister? 

MS FRAME:  Yes, I agree with that statement. 

MS EASTMAN:  So for people with disability and on this important aspect of community change, do you not think it's reasonable for people with disability to look to the Prime Minister, and PM and C as the department to support the Prime Minister and Cabinet's work, to have a very key leadership role in, for example, steps taking to change community attitudes towards people with disability? 

MS FRAME:  If that is a   an issue with that, if outcomes that have been or objectives that have been established are not being met and there are concerns raised and a need for a different approach to something, then, yes, I think that that is where there is a different   you know, then you shift into a different response if outcomes are not being delivered. 

Can I   I just wanted to add that the National Cabinet, of which the Prime Minister is the Chair, has very recently established their priorities for the next term of government and designated the key ministerial councils for which they will require annual reporting on achievement against objectives and outcomes with a view to responding if there are problems and impediments identified or clear areas where they can act in a concerted way from the National Cabinet. And that the Disability Reform Ministers' Meeting is on that priority list and is expected to report on achievements against the Disability Strategy and the NDIS. 

That mechanism has recently been put in place in response to the recognition that the National Cabinet as a body consider they need to be informed and updated on progress on the Strategy and the NDIS, and that reporting mechanism has been established. 

MS EASTMAN:  I'm not being critical of DSS or any other government department that has very important responsibilities in achieving the rights of people with disability and inclusion of people with disability. Take that as a starting premise. But is there not a place for people with disability to be represented in the seat where the Prime Minister leads in the place and department which is about finding new ways to improve the lives of Australians that brings fresh thinking and creative advice? Surely people with disability can expect that they should be represented in PM and C? Do you accept that? 

MS FRAME:  I do. And I consider that there is a lot that I've provided in evidence so far about how we do that, but I do   I do completely agree with your statement. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Ms Frame. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much for your statement and for your evidence this morning. We appreciate your assistance. Thank you. 

MS FRAME:  Thank you. 


CHAIR:  You might return that unstapled copy that I generously provided you.

MS FRAME:  Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  I hope the Chair hadn't written anything. 

CHAIR:  I'm sorry. 

MS EASTMAN:  I hope you hadn't written anything on that. Okay. I'm going to tender all of the government material at the end of all the evidence, so if we have a very short adjournment so that Ms Mitchell can be ready to start. So, if we have five minutes, if that would be  

CHAIR:  Yes. Alright. We'll adjourn and you let us know when you are ready. 



CHAIR:  Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Chair, and I'm sorry for that slightly longer delay. I'm not sure Ms Mitchell will agree with this, but I'm very pleased to see Ms Mitchell again. Thank you for returning to the Royal Commission, and I think you have taken an affirmation; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  Yes, that's correct. 

CHAIR:  Yes. Ms Mitchell, thank you again for returning to the Royal Commission to give evidence, and thank you for the detailed response that you have provided to questions that have been asked by the Royal Commission. We have that written response, and each of us has read that. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of my Associate, who is seated just in front of me, she will administer the affirmation to you.

ASSOCIATE:  I will read you the affirmation. At the end please say "yes" or "I do". Do you solemnly and sincerely, declare and affirm that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?



CHAIR:  Thank you, Ms Mitchell. Ms Eastman will now ask you some questions. 


MS EASTMAN:  Thank you. So, I confirm you are Debbie Mitchell. 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you are the Deputy Secretary of Disability and Carers in the Department of Social Services?

MS MITCHELL:  Correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you've prepared a statement for the Royal Commission dated 23 November this year. 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you've provided a corrigendum which addresses some footnote references and some paragraph numbering and formatting, and you've provided that to us on 8 December; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  What I won't do this morning is just go through all of those corrections, but when I tender it, all of the documents will come together. 

MS MITCHELL:  Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, I understand that while you haven't been here in the hearing room during the course of this week, you've followed the Royal Commission's proceedings? 

MS MITCHELL:  I have. 

MS EASTMAN:  And have you had an opportunity either to receive a briefing, read the transcript or follow any parts of the evidence? 

MS MITCHELL:  I have. I watched yesterday morning's witnesses and I've been able to read the transcript from yesterday. Previous to that it has been   I haven't had a lot but I've had a general update on what's going on. 

MS EASTMAN:  And I think you've got a copy of some parts of the Tender Bundle with you here today, and have you seen in that Tender Bundle the responses from the states and territories to some questions that the Royal Commission has asked? 

MS MITCHELL:  I don't think I have that with me. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. Alright. If that's the case, I won't ask you questions about that. 

MS MITCHELL:  I have my entire Tender Bundle with all of my attachments. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. So, tell me if you're aware of this:  so, in the preparation for the Royal Commission, the Royal Commission wrote to all of the states and territories and we asked them to respond to a series of questions that, for the most part, mirror the questions we asked you as well in relation to what has occurred since the ADS was released last year, what budgets are allocated   


MS EASTMAN:    to it, the CRPD compliance and barriers. Have you seen those documents? 

MS MITCHELL:  No, I haven't seen all of their answers, but I'm aware that you asked them questions.

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. Well, can I start with just making sure that I and the Royal Commissioners have an understanding about the way in which the ADS operates. I do appreciate I have asked you some questions previously at Public hearing 26, but this hearing is focused particularly on the progress of the ADS over the last year. So, the ADS has now been in operation for just over 12 months, and the key document, to start with, is the Strategy itself and that's a document that's publicly available. 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  You've got a copy with you. In the document, the ADS identifies a range of policy areas, and you've told us on previous occasions that the way in which the ADS was developed involved consultation with and the views of people with disability. 

MS MITCHELL:  Over 3,000 people. 

MS EASTMAN:  Then   and I'll use the expression I used yesterday   the architecture of the ADS is that there's a number of elements. The first is that you've set out a separate road map which, is a one page document that encapsulates the way in which the ADS will operate. So, working towards achieving the outcomes over a 10 year period. The next thing is that there should be something called the ADS Guiding Principles, and you've addressed this in paragraphs 18 to 22, paragraphs 33 to 36 of your statement and in attachment A to your statement, which I think is unpaginated, but the final four numbers are 0048. 

So Guiding Principles is one part of the way the ADS works, and I might come back to ask you some particular questions on that. The other is the development of an Outcomes Framework, and at tab 16 of the volume you've provided to the Royal Commission the Outcomes Framework. Is that something that you have direct responsibilities for? 


MS EASTMAN:  And part of the Outcomes Framework is also the development of a Data Improvement Plan; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And you've addressed those issues at paragraphs 24   23 to 24 of the statement. 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Next element of the architecture are some councils to provide advice on aspects of the ADS. The first is an Advisory Council. You've addressed that at paragraphs 29 to 30, and is this an Advisory Council for the most part of people with disability, either lived or living experience of disability, or direct experience of disability? 

MS MITCHELL:  For the whole part, the Advisory Council is made up of people with lived experience of disability, and it's chaired by Dr Ben Gauntlett. 

MS EASTMAN:  And I might ask you, because I think you've provided to us the Terms of Reference for that council. I'll come back to that at the moment. The next is the role of the Disability Reform Ministerial Council and you've addressed that at paragraphs 31 and you've heard Ms Frame speak to that and I think, if you've read the evidence yesterday, the Queensland involvement in the council. Right, so those elements are there. 

Then if we go back to the ADS, for the particular priority areas, the ADS operates on the development of Targeted Action Plans which are intended to identify particular actions that can be taken to achieve or work towards achieving the priority areas; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  At the present time, there's five TAPs in, if I can use the shorthand expression   


MS EASTMAN:    Community Attitudes, Early Childhood, Employment, Safety and Emergency Management. 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  Now, that's not the limit of the priority areas in the ADS. Can you tell us whether there will be additional Targeted Action Plans developed for the other areas? 

MS MITCHELL:  So the ADS is a 10 year Strategy, so to commence the ADS, these five Targeted Action Plans were seen as the five areas to commence. But the ADS is designed to be adaptive and pivot to the needs and areas that people with disability wish the plan to go in in the future. I mean, we have any number of reporting and monitoring strategies which I can talk to later, if you wish. 

But this is just the beginning. It's a 10 year Strategy and there's   you know, we don't know what the needs of people with disability might be in two years or five years or 10 years. We will have an understanding in two years of what we've achieved in two years, but we need to re evaluate and, in fact, we will be re evaluating the Strategy following the report from the Disability Royal Commission in September. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, can I ask you the question, will there be more TAPs that speak to the particular priority areas?

MS MITCHELL:  I can't answer that question. That will be a matter for all of the Advisory Committees to see if we will administer more TAPs. I don't know the answer. 

MS EASTMAN:  Does it not create some difficulty in both developing particular action items and the capacity to review and evaluate if there are some areas where the Commonwealth and the States are working to Targeted Action Plans but in other areas, for example, safety   sorry, in Justice area and Health area, that   Education more broadly, the absence of Targeted Action Plans makes it difficult, doesn't it? 

MS MITCHELL:  I would agree and I think that, you know, there will probably be Targeted Action Plans in those areas, but I   I can't pre empt the evaluation and the direction of the Strategy going forward. 

MS EASTMAN:  Are you saying you need a recommendation from this Royal Commission to make that happen?

MS MITCHELL:  No, I'm   no, I'm saying that I would be listening to the   well, to the voices of the people with disability who ask us to target certain areas. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. Stepping back from that broader architecture, the purpose of the ADS overall is really to shift from the aspirations of a better life and rights protection for people with disability into lived reality; is it not? 


MS EASTMAN:  And to make that shift from aspirations to lived reality, it follows that government has to do things differently, doesn't it? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. All governments.

MS EASTMAN:  All governments, but government   if I use government in its broader sense. Is that simply doing the same thing that has been done both in policy and practice for many years is not going to shift from aspiration to lived reality? 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree. 

MS EASTMAN:  Did you have the opportunity to hear or read Gerard Quinn's evidence earlier this week? He gave some evidence on Monday. 

MS MITCHELL:  No, I didn't, I'm sorry. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. Perhaps at some point I'll invite you to read his material. He talks   he used some metaphors, but he talked about the importance of turning a ship around. But he also spoke to doing things differently by thinking differently about the place of people with disability in society. Doing things differently means people with disability at the centre of policy making generally rather than off at the side as the afterthought. You accept that?

MS MITCHELL:  I completely accept that. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that doing things differently, he said, also requires a different thinking towards funding and budgetary considerations. Do you accept that? 

MS MITCHELL:  Well, funding and budget is a matter for government. 

MS EASTMAN:  But he's saying that if you're going to do things differently, part of this is also looking at shifting power in making decisions, including decisions around funding and budget. 

MS MITCHELL:  I think that's a reasonable position because people with disability should be at the centre of any decision making and so where we use our resources should be part of that decision making. 

MS EASTMAN:  One of the important features for the ADS is that it reminds Australia as a whole community that disability issues in this country are not limited to or exclusively the province of the NDIS? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct, because the NDIS currently has about 530 to 540 thousand participants, when statistically there are about 4.4 million people in Australia who identify as living with a disability. 

MS EASTMAN:  And there is a large unmet demand for support for people with disability in addition to and beyond the NDIS. Would you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  I would agree. 

MS EASTMAN:  If we look at the vision for the future through the perspective of this ADS, do you think there is a genuine belief in government that this ADS will be the difference in policy, funding and delivery of rights for people with disability? 

MS MITCHELL:  Yes, I do believe that this is one of the vehicles, yes. It's a   it's a good starting point. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. Now, I want to ask you about the ADS Guiding Principles. Are we right in understanding that's still in a process of development? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. So, we have   we are in the middle of consultation on the Guiding Principles and it is consultation rather than co design right at this stage. So, we've called for submissions between October and November. We received 54 online submissions from 45 individuals. We've conducted two workshops with disability representative organisations, and that was on 20 and 28 October. We have had two round table discussions with academics and universities on 26 October, 8 November. And additionally we have the Disability Advocacy Network, DANA, they're working through the disability representative organisations to facilitate targeted workshops specifically for people with disabilities, and so they were conducted on 22, 24, 27 and 29 November. 

MS EASTMAN:  So when are we likely to see the publication of the ADS Guiding Principles? 

MS MITCHELL:  I think I referred to it in my statement that we will see them in mid 2023. I think that's my reference at paragraph 21. 

MS EASTMAN:  Yes. So   right. And then when the guidelines are available, can you tell us who will be required to use these guidelines? 

MS MITCHELL:  So they're   they are guidelines and so we will be working with all state and territory governments. We will be working with business, with local communities to put the guidelines out there to demonstrate what is best practice for designing policies, implementing policies, across   across a spectrum that would affect people with disabilities. So, they will be a very good, strong vehicle for people to be able to understand disability issues. 

I mean, I think it goes a long way to what you probably will ask me about later, which is about community attitudes. So, one of the things about community attitudes is that people just don't know what they don't know, really. And so when you ask them about what's an inclusive area for disabilities, they may well not understand, and so these guides hopefully will be an aid to assisting people in their attitudes towards people with disability.

MS EASTMAN:  You've been careful to say they're guidelines. 


MS EASTMAN:  And they're Guiding Principles. So, I take it by that that they're not going to have any legislative force; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's my current understanding. 

MS EASTMAN:  And if they're guidelines, will there be any plan within DSS or elsewhere in government to monitor how the Guiding Principles are used within Commonwealth agencies and then more broadly, as you said, to perhaps other government and then into the private sector, the community? 

MS MITCHELL:  I think, yes, absolutely in the many ways in which we will report against the ADS   pardon me   the guidelines will form part of that reporting process. I mean, importantly in the two evaluations that we're going to do in 25 and 29, I think that that will be a really good indication about whether the guidelines have been appropriately used or whether they've been valuable nationally. We also have implementation reports on the ADS every two years. And so I think   well, I know that that will all be picked up as part of that implementation reporting. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, while there's been a lot of support for the ADS, some commentators have said that it doesn't have a strong enough CRPD rights focus. There's a reference to the Guiding Principles, Article 3 of the CRPD, but the substantive rights of people with disability from Articles 5 to 30, for example, in the CRPD don't really   they're not really represented in a strong way in the ADS. So, assume that as a view. Will the Guiding Principles work to articulate the rights in the CRPD? So, will pick up perhaps the gaps that might be in the ADS. Will the Guiding Principles do that? 

MS MITCHELL:  The CRPD is something that I and my team live and breathe in every aspect of the work that we develop. And so the ADS   I would provide commentary, I think, that the ADS is a really strong and key component of Australia's response to the CRPD. So, I think the Guiding Principles augment the ADS. Whether they will be specifically mentioned in the Guiding Principles, I'm yet to see because the Guiding Principles are currently out for consultation. But, I mean, the ADS is about including people with disabilities in the design, the delivery, the review, the responsiveness, every step of inception to delivery. So, I think that   I think the ADS is a very strong action by government to    

MS EASTMAN:  My question, though, is a little more focused, and that is bringing the language of the CRPD and connecting to rights in the CRPD in the Guiding Principles. 

MS MITCHELL:  Look, I do   yes, they will. They will. And particularly around developing understanding in the broader community around the CRPD, particularly for businesses and some of those mainstream services. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. I want to move now to the issue of consultation with people with disability, and I think you've just said a little earlier consultation, not co design. 

MS MITCHELL:  Mm hmm. 


MS MITCHELL:  Of the Guiding Principles, are you talking about? 

MS EASTMAN:  I'll start generally and we'll work down. But in terms of just the concept of consultation, when the Commonwealth uses consultation with people with disability, in a sense, you're seeking the views and the opinions of people with disability to then assist government to take those views and then work up the policy. You're not talking about consultation as a model of co design or as Dr Amin said yesterday, sort of power sharing in how decisions are made? 

MS MITCHELL:  So consultation, in my mind, generally, is where, yes, we've worked up a position and we go out to people, people with disability, to seek their views. Proper co design is before we write the paper and we identify the problem and look at possible solutions with people with disability. So, in my mind, that's the difference between consultation and co design. And there is a very big commitment to co design. 

MS EASTMAN:  You heard Dr Amin say yesterday that if you start, as you've described, where the   either the organisation, it might be an employer, it works out what it wants to do, and it forms its view and then takes that for consultation, there's a risk of missing out of what she described as the edge users. Did you hear her    about that yesterday?

MS MITCHELL:  I didn't hear that, but I would agree.

MS EASTMAN:  So, is one of the doing things differently in government working with people with disability is for government not to start with the premise that it works up a policy or a program and then takes that to people with disabilities and say, what do you think about this?

MS MITCHELL:  I think   

MS EASTMAN:  And then take their opinions and come back, maybe tweak a few things. But it has to be quite different, doesn't it. 

MS MITCHELL:  I think there's been demonstrated by the development of the ADS, where it was three years of co design processes. As I said, 3,000 people. But many, many other hundreds of forums and discussions and paper development, but I think the government structure around the ADS also supports that, so, as I said, we have the   we have the Advisory Council, reporting to government. 

MS EASTMAN:  I want to ask you about that in a moment. 


MS EASTMAN:  But in terms of, if I take that broad sense of consultation, with respect to the ADS, it works in two ways. The first is the importance of people with disability in the development of the ADS. And that's what you've covered I think in paragraphs 40 to 52 of the statement. And you might remember I asked you about this at the Public hearing 26 concerning homelessness. 


MS EASTMAN:  And said, well, there seemed to be a gap in relation to the area of housing and that homelessness was not identified as a priority area. My recollection is you said that this did not come up in consultation. So, I think we had a discussion at that time, and one of the issues was the development of the ADS sufficiently robust to get to what Dr Amin called yesterday the edge users, and I'm thinking here, edge users who are in segregated or closed settings? 

MS MITCHELL:  We can always improve our processes and ensure that we're reaching the right people. I think my evidence in the previous hearing was the issue of design was talked about in development of the ADS, but the issue of affordable housing and homelessness did not come up through that process. So, yes, I mean, the question that I would ask myself after that evidence was, did we engage with the right people when we were developing ADS? 

We think that we, you know, were sufficiently broad to reach the right people, but if that's a key issue for people with disabilities and it didn't come up in the ADS, then there's obviously a gap. But we had opportunity to rectify that with all the review points that we have in the ADS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, in terms of those gaps, though, those gaps cannot be explained away by the fact that people with disability didn't raise issues, and the homelessness one, for example, is one that should have been on the government's radar, when you look at all of the reports that were undertaken by parliamentary committees, and more broadly, that homelessness and its prevalence for people with disability is an area where the alarm bells were ringing quite strongly, were they not? 

MS MITCHELL:  Yes. For many years, in disabilities. I   I wasn't there, of course, in the beginning of the development of the process, but I would think that where there has been identified the roles and responsibilities in the ADS around housing, homelessness, it has   it was agreed that it was a state and territory responsibility and every   and states and territories and the Commonwealth sign up to taking those issues forward. 

MS EASTMAN:  Second area of the consultation is as the ADS develops, evolves and the ongoing nature of consultation, are we right in understanding from your statement that there are a number of ways consultation or engagement with people with disability occurs? One is, as you've described in paragraph 33 to 36, the direct engagement; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And this has been part of bringing people with disability in to work on the good practice guidelines; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's right. 

MS EASTMAN:  The other is at paragraph 37, and that's the further engagement in the ongoing work of the Strategy with the disability representative organisations. 


MS EASTMAN:  Now, in terms of the DROs, if I can use that expression   


MS EASTMAN:    other than the matters that you've described in paragraph 37 which describe a number of meetings from March this year through to October   


MS EASTMAN:    where formally do the disability representative organisations fit into the ongoing consultation processes with the ADS? 

MS MITCHELL:  The disability representative organisations meet and provide advice and feedback on the Strategy at least four times a year. They meet the department and we receive their advice and seek their guidance about any changes to the Strategy. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is the process one that   

MS MITCHELL:  It's quite a formal process. 

MS EASTMAN:  But comes to a meeting. 


MS EASTMAN:  And the DROs can say what they want to raise with government. Do they set the agenda?

MS MITCHELL:  We would set the agenda together. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, how does that work in practice?

MS MITCHELL:  So, in practice, the department would probably draft a draft agenda, we would send it out to the DROs, they would provide their feedback and we would come to an agreement about what we were going to discuss. 

MS EASTMAN:  And how effective is that as a model of ensuring that you are hearing the broad reach of concerns that the DROs cover in the work that they do? 

MS MITCHELL:  It's just one of the mechanisms that we use to understand our feedback on the   on the Disability Strategy. 

MS EASTMAN:  And if there are any matters arising out of the meetings that you've had with the DROs, where do you see the DRO input, either in reporting or in processes for evaluating the effectiveness of meeting the priority areas? How do you see the DROs' contribution?

MS MITCHELL:  I think their contribution will be critical to how we design the two major evaluations that will be undertaken, and their feedback about the areas where they think the Strategy hasn't reached or there may be gaps or where we're not achieving what we said we would achieve. That will form some key directions for the evaluations. 

MS EASTMAN:  But where would you see that? Is there a way for people who might follow the progress of the ADS to see quite precisely and to know, this is what the DROs have raised and this is how the DROs' concern has been acted on? 

MS MITCHELL:  I don't think that it would be as specific  as to say that they raised A and that we put that on   you know, that that was public information, but certainly through the Outcomes Framework and the web pages and a dashboard that was implemented, I think, on 14 December, that's an opportunity for the public to see how we're faring and DROs will be feeding very strongly into that Outcomes Framework. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. The other is then the Advisory Council, and we mentioned that a little earlier. If you turn to tab 17 in the bundle, Commissioners, you'll have a copy of this. This is described as Engagement Plan. And tell me when you've got that. 

MS MITCHELL:  I do. I have it. 

MS EASTMAN:  And on the first page it refers to the Strategy Advisory Council. So, that's the Advisory Council; that's right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's right. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of understanding what the Council's Terms of Reference, are they the matters set out at the middle of the page on page 1 and then over the page? 

MS MITCHELL:  On the Engagement Plan? 


MS MITCHELL:  The Terms of Reference have been under development by the Council for several months. I don't think they're finally settled but I hope to correct my evidence   

MS EASTMAN:  So, the Advisory Council should have Terms of Reference. 


MS EASTMAN:  But in the absence of seeing   

MS MITCHELL:  This is the   

MS EASTMAN:    Terms of Reference, is this as close as we get to understanding   

MS MITCHELL:  What their role   

MS EASTMAN:    what the roles would be or is of the Advisory Council?


MS EASTMAN:  So, they have a role in Targeted Action Plans and I asked you earlier whether there would be more Targeted Action Plans. Is the Council the body that says we'd like a new Targeted Action Plan on the justice system or   

MS MITCHELL:  They could well be, or it could be the DROs. It could be any number of mechanisms. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. And do you see that the Council will have any decision making role, for example, as to whether to advance a Targeted Action Plan? 

MS MITCHELL:  The Council is an Advisory Council and they provide advice to government. The final decision will be a matter for government, but, you know, as I've said many times, government is very committed to taking into account the views of people with disability in any change to the ADS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Do you accept, though, that if you're going to do things differently, it has to be more than simply taking into account the views of people with disability, and there needs to be consultation that has disability leaders, disability advocates who can influence decision making, and also a place for people with disability to be able to make the decisions in partnership with government? Do you accept that? 

MS MITCHELL:  I do accept that, and part of the Advisory Council role is to provide that advice, which they are an advisory council so final decision, of course, is a matter for government but I can assure you that they're a very strong Advisory Council and we listen to them very closely. 

MS EASTMAN:  But that's just listening. 

MS MITCHELL:  Yes, alright. 

MS EASTMAN:  It's not giving them power to actually make a decision. 


MS EASTMAN:  And I think all the lawyers in the room know that we can give our clients a lot of advice. There's no guarantee or requirement for our clients to take that advice. 

MS MITCHELL:  I accept that. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is it not the same with an advisory council where you might have deep expertise on the council but if they have no capacity to do anything more than share views or to try to influence or persuade, in a sense, they're not really at the hub of making any decisions about the way in which the ADS will work? They just don't have that authority, do they? Alright. Now, you know that I'm going to ask you about community attitudes. 


MS EASTMAN:  And I think you've got behind tab 20 in the bundle, the Community Attitudes TAP. And I asked your colleagues from Queensland about this yesterday. So, following through our discussion earlier, the Targeted Action Plan takes the priority areas and the objectives in the priority areas to then identify actions that will be taken. So, if I can ask you to turn to page 4, this is the Commonwealth Government's actions, and the Commonwealth has focussed on four of the objectives but not all of the objectives.

And I asked Queensland yesterday where did key professional workforces that are able to competently and positively respond to people with disability come from? Was that a Queensland initiative or where does that come from? And I think our colleagues from Queensland were not entirely sure. If this is coming from the ADS itself, can you tell us what does "key professional workforces" mean and what is it about being able to confidently and positively respond to people with disability? What does that actually mean? 

MS MITCHELL:  So, yes, it does come from the ADS, and so it was developed as part of the ADS. Disability inclusive practices   so I'll just note that there was a recent grant round under the ILC with a focus on health professionals to meet some of these targets. But building disability inclusive practices, we know not just anecdotally but we know that through the employment of people with disability that there is not confidence in employing people with disability and that even in education settings, there is not confidence or best practice in supporting people with disability to move through the education setting or even to move into professions like the legal profession or, indeed, Australian Public Service. 

So, this is around ensuring that those professions   this is a focus on professional   are confident and it's not another thing that they're   they're making adjustment for, for people with disabilities to go into those professions, because we know that 80 percent of people with disability in the workforce don't require a single adjustment to work in the workforce. It's a furphy everyone with disability requires an adjustment. 

MS EASTMAN:  But the indicator outcome for this one, which is developing disability confidence in key professionals. 



    "There's an investment of 2.5 million in building disability inclusive practices into pre  and post qualification education and training." 



    "And develop resources that can be used in higher education and professional development." 

I'm not sure exactly what that means, but the indicator is the number of key professionals who are knowledgeable and supported to assist people with disability. So, just look at that indicator. 


MS EASTMAN:  Is   that indicator doesn't really give me any sense that I could say what numbers are you looking at? How many key professional workforces or professionals are you speaking to? Who are the key professionals? What knowledge do you want them to have? And how do you expect key professionals to be supporting   to be supported to in turn assist people with disability? So, I'm going to put this to you. That is a very vague indicator; yes? 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree. 

MS EASTMAN:  And an indicator that, on its face, would be almost impossible to measure? 


MS EASTMAN:  And an indicator that doesn't really speak to changing attitudes, but speaking to having knowledge to assist people with disability? 

MS MITCHELL:  Yes, and I   yes. So, as I just mentioned around the recent grant round focussing on health professionals, the way in which we would measure it, of course, would be to do surveys of people who participated in those processes through universities and TAFEs, and that's how we would measure it, but you're correct. It is a very broad indicator. 

MS EASTMAN:  Let me give you an example, the Royal Commission commissioned some research and published its research report, Changing community attitudes to improve inclusion of people with disability. That was published on the Royal Commission's website on 3 May 2022, I think. Is that a report that you've read? 

MS MITCHELL:  I   no, I haven't read it in full. I've read most of the Royal Commission reports. 

MS EASTMAN:  Would it not be the case that the starting point to meet an objective like this would be to clearly understand what the problem is that you are seeking to resolve; then, secondly, to identify the scope or the breadth of that problem; thirdly, to perhaps ask people with lived experience of disability of their experience of the problem, and their suggestions as to how that might be addressed? 


MS EASTMAN:  And then, thirdly, to have concrete plans that identify the key professionals and to ensure that the key professionals achieve a particular outcome, whatever that might be that could be measured? 


MS EASTMAN:  You agree with that. 

MS MITCHELL:  I would agree. 

MS EASTMAN:  And would you agree with me   I'm not trying to be nitpicky   that someone picking this up   and this is the first action, the first thing in the TAP on Community Attitudes, is something that looks quite vague, something that can't be measured and something that may not give people with disability a lot of confidence if all they can expect is key professionals will know about them and support to assist them. It's a whole range of assumptions, isn't there? 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree. 

MS EASTMAN:  If we take the whole of the Targeted Action Plans   and you may have read the transcript of the questions that I asked your colleagues from Queensland   it's the case, isn't it, that the Commonwealth identifies for itself its action items, and you've got the three for community attitudes, and then after that, it's up to each state and territory to identify the action items that that state or territory wishes to commit to; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's right. It was a negotiated document. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is there any oversight by the Commonwealth to say to the states and territories this can go in or this must stay out. 

MS MITCHELL:  I don't know the answer to that. When they were developed, I don't know whether that was part of the decision making. 

MS EASTMAN:  But the Commonwealth's got some responsibility in terms of measuring whether these indicators are on track. 

MS MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN:  Slow, delayed, completed and you may have seen   and I'm just conscious of the time. I won't take you to the big outcome report. 

MS MITCHELL:  Well, we have the implementation reports, as I mentioned before, which the first one's due in late 2023, and that will be a very first indicator of whether the Commonwealth and the states and territories have been able to achieve what they put down as their actions. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. Just taking community attitudes as one area, would you agree that this is a very important priority area, but to shift community attitudes is not simply a matter of doing a whole lot of disparate or piecemeal activities? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's very hard for me to answer. I think that there are a number of mechanisms that we've tried to achieve over the years to shift community attitudes. It's been very difficult to shift community attitudes. It's been one of the most difficult areas. But I still think that not just one target or one action will shift attitudes. I think we will still have to have a number of actions. 

MS EASTMAN:  But does it not need at its core a very clear strategy that brings all governments together, and to the extent that it needs to extend to the private sector, or more broadly into communities, to shift the community attitudes, there needs to be a common purpose in what you want to change, and how? 

MS MITCHELL:  I think the ADS is the common purpose, and I think the core issue was identified as development of the ADS, which is why we have the Community Attitudes Strategy. Whether the action under the Strategy, under the TAP, will achieve that, that is yet to be determined.

MS EASTMAN:  But the TAP is the pathway through. 


MS EASTMAN:  The practical actions or on the ground actions, is it not?

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct, but TAPs will move and change over time. 

MS EASTMAN:  But if the TAPs convey a sense that this is all going to be disparate, so what I might   what might happen to me in Queensland might be really different to what might be happening to me in Tasmania. For people with disability, and you're looking at changing community attitudes, it shouldn't turn on whether I'm going to get a better chance of having more proactive and favourable attitudes to me in Queensland, as opposed to Tasmania or the Northern Territory. That's what I mean by disparate and piecemeal.

MS MITCHELL:  No, I completely understand and there are many examples of that, not only with disabilities, but from every state and territory around registration or education    and all sorts of things. But I think that the mechanism for bringing it all together is the Disability Reform Ministers' Council so many of these things go to the Disability Reform Ministers' Council, and an example that they discussed on last Tuesday the 13th was very much   was assistance animals. 

And so assistance animals, the regulations and rules around them, are different in nearly every state and territory and that's very different for people with assistance animals. And I'm not just talking about assistance dogs. There are many assistance animals. So, those sorts of things are front and centre with the Disability Reform Ministers' Meeting.

MS EASTMAN:  But just on that, the Commonwealth has got an opportunity to lead on that. Section 8 of the   

MS MITCHELL:  They are, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:    Disability Discrimination Act specifically deals with rights in relation to assistance animals. So, that's an example where the Commonwealth has both the power and the knowledge to be able to address assistance animals. So, isn't that one where Commonwealth should take a leading role?

MS MITCHELL:  Well, we're taking a leading role by bringing it to the Reform Ministers to look at how we can have uniformity across the states and territories. 

MS EASTMAN:  We'll have a break in a second, if that's okay. I just want to put this proposition to you:  if we are thinking about a plan that might realise a shift or change in community attitudes, do we not need to start with understanding the life force of experiences of the people with disability from birth, or, in some cases, before birth all the way through a person's life? 

MS MITCHELL:  And all for later acquired disabilities. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in the course of that life, to understand where attitudes may change or evolve or have greater impacts? For example, in early childhood, the attitudes that attach to a child of low expectations that might in turn put them on what some have described as a polished pathway. Or it may be attitudes that the Royal Commission has heard in Public hearing 28 about attitudes in public places, is that if we're not clear about what attitudes we're working towards over the course of somebody's life, we could miss key points in time, but also key understanding about how attitudes shift and change towards people with disability. That's the first thing. 

The second is do we not need to look at who can lead on changing community attitudes? And part of the evidence that we've heard this week about people in   with disability in the media, people like Dylan Alcott or Chloe Hayden, or looking at places like the Brother Boys on TikTok, is that we need to see where attitudes develop and why. That needs to be in there. We need to deal with things that Dr Amin spoke about, about awareness around unconscious bias and how our assumptions play. And then leadership from the top. None of that  

CHAIR:  Sorry. Ms Mitchell has been nodding periodically. If we could get something on the transcript, it would be helpful. 

MS EASTMAN:  She has. Those sorts of elements that acknowledge the cause and understand the context don't appear in the ADS or in the Targeted Action Plans. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  Not as you've described. 

MS EASTMAN:  And if there's not an understanding as to the why the attitudes may be a problem, it's very hard to ensure that actions that seek to curb negative attitudes will actually work. Do you accept that? 

MS MITCHELL:  I do accept that, but can I just add that attitudes   so we're talking about attitudes of others to people with disability. But within the disability sector itself, there are   it's not a generic sector. There are very, very broad attitudes around, as you say, the polished pathway. There are attitudes where people    I think I   I can't remember which hearing it was when I talked about Australian Disability Enterprises and so there are   


MS MITCHELL:  Thank you. There are many people who think that Disability Enterprises are   absolutely should always be there for a certain category of people, but there are, on the other end of the spectrum, people in the sector who think they are absolutely terrible and talk about slave wages and things like that. 

MS EASTMAN:  But that's   I don't want to have an argument with you, but that's the vice, is it not?


MS EASTMAN:  Is that when you set up attitudes towards people with disability as these binary option, it's either this or it's that?

MS MITCHELL:  Correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  That that in itself is producing an approach to attitudes that people with disability are seen as it's either this or it's that. 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree with you. And I don't mean to put it in a binary way. Well, perhaps what I'm saying is that people with disability have as many different life experiences and   as everyone else who doesn't have a disability. And so it would be difficult to map a life path, but I think it's absolutely worth an attempt. 

MS EASTMAN:  And if we took that approach and said are there gaps in the current ADS, would you agree with me that there are gaps in the priority areas in the ADS at the present time? 

MS MITCHELL:  I   I think that the ADS has to be   we had to start somewhere so, of course, there are going to be gaps, because we had to begin the process and it's a 10 year process. And as I said, the ADS will adapt and pivot. We will do evaluations. We will take advice. We will have people with disability at the centre of our decision making. We will change the ADS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is not one of the significant gaps in the ADS a reckoning with the historical impact of segregation and a commitment to moving away from segregation? And Gerard Quinn, I think, put this earlier this week, is if you develop policies and practices that assume a place for segregation, that's the problem. If you develop policies and practices that assume segregation is not an option or a destination or the only outcome for people with disability, that's where you start to shift in thinking from a policy perspective about inclusion of people with disability? 

MS MITCHELL:  My personal view is that we shouldn't even have to use the term "people with disability". They should just be "people". 

MS EASTMAN:  But part of that is a reckoning with the past. 


MS EASTMAN:  That to achieve where you're heading is to recognise that there was for a very long time a view that people with disability were not even just people, and unless there's that reckoning with segregation in the past, is there not a risk of repeating past wrongs or bias?

MS MITCHELL:  Well, bias still exists in society and bias still exists in the development of policy so, yes, there is a risk of history repeating.

MS EASTMAN:  Does the ADS not need to have at its core a commitment that segregation is not the option that you are seeking to maintain or that segregation is somewhere where Australia needs to move from, whether it can be done immediately or, as Gerard Quinn, turning the ship and it may take time, but you have to have that as an outcome to be able to really change community attitudes. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  I personally agree that you need to have a core to change community attitudes. The way in which it would be affecting the ADS, I think, is something that I would take to the Advisory Council, put that proposition to them about how we can improve the ADS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. Chair, I'm just conscious of the time and people may need a break or a cup of tea at this point. I've probably then got another half an hour, and I really want to deal with some of the more mechanical aspects of inter governmental relations for the ADS. So, if that's a convenient time.

CHAIR:  Yes. Well, on the basis you need roughly half an hour, let us now adjourn until 12.10. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you. 



CHAIR:  Ms Eastman, it's a big day for administrative law. The Attorney General has just announced he's abolishing the AAT. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. Well, I'm not going to ask you about that, Ms Mitchell. 

MS MITCHELL:  Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  I am going to ask you about data improvement plans. So, our conversation a moment ago was about a reckoning with the past and the process of evaluation. Would you agree that the collection of reliable data is key to any evaluation program, but it's also key to future policy and planning? 

MS MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the experience in disability has been the absence of data in many key areas, and you would have heard that in the course of the Royal Commission's hearing. 

MS MITCHELL:  Absolutely. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, there is a Data Improvement Plan which you've addressed at paragraphs 23 through to 28 of your statement. And that's a Data Improvement Plan to assist the development of the ADS; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And is there any plan for government to address data with respect to disability more broadly? 

MS MITCHELL:  So I'll just commence by saying you're absolutely correct to say that data or disability, people with disability and disability services themselves is   has been historically incredibly hard to get, and one of the biggest   sorry, a key issue for us has been trying to baseline some of our service delivery. It's incredibly difficult, especially as services run across states and territories and federal government. 

So, there are a number of mechanisms in play. So, you referred to the Data Improvement Plan. That was endorsed by Disability Reform Ministers last Tuesday the 13th at their meeting in Melbourne, so that has been now endorsed so that will come into play. There has been $15 million provided to the National Disability Research Partnership to help us manoeuvre through those   some of those data issues, and there's a National Data Disability Asset which has had a pilot phase in New South Wales, but it's continuing to be a focus of discussion between Disability Reform Ministers. It hasn't been finalised yet but it's certainly a topic that they discuss regularly. 

MS EASTMAN:  Just while we're on the National Disability Data Asset, the NDDA, what needs to be done to establish the NDDA beyond the pilot program to be a national resource that can be used for longitudinal analysis of linked data? 

MS MITCHELL:  It needs agreement from all the states and territories. 

MS EASTMAN:  What's the impediment to reaching the agreement? Or an agreement? 

MS MITCHELL:  I'm not sure if I'm in a position to answer that. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. If there is a national data   disability data asset, an NDDA, is it likely to be used to identify factors that place people with disability at the greatest risk of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation in service settings, be it disability specific or mainstream services? 

MS MITCHELL:  I hope so but I   as I said, it's difficult now to baseline services, so I think this is   the development of the data asset will be a maturing process, I imagine, and at the same time, we need to make sure that we're very mindful of privacy issues for people with disability, particularly when we start   if there's any mechanisms to combine data with, say, hospital data. 

MS EASTMAN:  But you agree there's a need to implement a consistent approach to disability data collection across the country. 


MS EASTMAN:  And do you agree that that needs to be led by the Australian Government in hand with the state and territory governments?


MS EASTMAN:  And is the Disability Reform Ministers the place to secure that leadership?


MS EASTMAN:  And development?


MS EASTMAN:  Would you agree with these propositions:  that the Australian Government should work with states and territories to publish an implementation plan for a consistent disability flag across all mainstream service data collections and population surveys? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's   the decision to place a flag will be a decision for individual governments, but, you know   

MS EASTMAN:  But is there a risk, then, that individual governments may take a different approach to that disability flag?

MS MITCHELL:  There is a risk. 

MS EASTMAN:  And that that, in a sense, is an impediment to having a nationally consistent approach to data collection? 

MS MITCHELL:  Yes, it could be. 

MS EASTMAN:  If there was a nationally consistent approach to a disability flag and a mechanism for collecting data across mainstream service systems, there needs to be an implementation process to ensure that works effectively. 


MS EASTMAN:  Do you agree? 


MS EASTMAN:  This is an implementation process that should be co designed with people with disability in the way we have spoken about, the meaning of co design. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  Do you agree that there has to be something in the way in which data is collected that allows the identification of violence against people with disability, together with abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and each of those have discrete and specific features. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree that it would be fantastic if any data collection could identify those areas, but I   I just caveat by saying that they are very difficult areas to collect data on, and an example that I would give would be when we're talking about abuse of women and their children, it's not easy but it's easier to identify women who have been subject to abuse, but it's very difficult to identify the children as well. You have to use proxy data. 

MS EASTMAN:  This is part of any strategy also identifying how to collect. 

MS MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the collection methods need to be accessible to people who experience violence and abuse; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's right and we worked very closely with the ABS and AIHW to design. 

MS EASTMAN:  And it has to be accessible in terms of the form in which people can communicate, noting that for some people with disability, there needs to be alternative forms of communication? 


MS EASTMAN:  That process of building communication support in has to be something as a result of co design, otherwise there's a real risk that people will slip between the gaps. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree, and it goes down to the way in which data   as you say, data is collected in hospitals, in schools, in   in public settings, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  If we come back to the theme of community attitudes, the attitudes of those designing the collection of data and the way in which information, particularly personal information, is sought by a person who experiences violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, has to be informed by trauma informed practice. 


MS EASTMAN:  And it also needs to be culturally responsive. 

MS MITCHELL:  Absolutely. 

MS EASTMAN:  That there also needs to be strategies to improve the collection of data about First Nations people with disability. 

MS MITCHELL:  I think that   that's where I was about to comment, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.5 times more likely to have a disability, so, yes, our practices need to be very culturally    

MS EASTMAN:  And also from people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds or recent arrival to Australia. 

MS MITCHELL:  Absolutely, and cultural competency is important as well. 

MS EASTMAN:  For people with disability who are members of faith based communities?

MS MITCHELL:  Of course.

MS EASTMAN:  LGBTI communities?


MS EASTMAN:  And also understanding the experience of women who experience coercive control in their lives with disability. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree. 

MS EASTMAN:  Without disclosing anything that you cannot, are these all factors that you can tell the Royal Commission that are being taken into account in terms of Ministerial Reform Council's consideration of developing a nationally consistent data collection approach? 

MS MITCHELL:  I'm not able to answer that question. We're still in discussions around the national data asset. 

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. I want to move to the topic of how within the Commonwealth the ADS has implemented, reviewed and evaluated, and I understand from paragraph 11 of your statement that the   Australia's Disability Strategy Branch, which is a branch within DSS, that operate as a central policy and implementation unit within the Australian Government. Is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  Yes, that is right. 

MS EASTMAN:  And in terms of its responsibilities, you've set out some detail in the statement, but I want to ask you this:  in terms of a budget for that branch for particular work in implementing the ADS, is there a budget line item for funding for the ADS, and for the work of the branch? 

MS MITCHELL:  I   so the Australian Disability Strategy Branch is one of the branches within my stream, and they are funded as part of my budget within DSS. Whether you could see it as a budget line item in    I don't think so. I don't think it goes down to that level. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the branch has the responsibility of coordinating all of the reports that come in from Commonwealth agencies; is that right? 


MS EASTMAN:  And in your statement behind the annexures 9A is a document that I drew to Ms Frame's attention. Are you familiar with that document? Commissioners, this is the Including outcomes for people with disability in government entities, corporate plans and annual reports, behind 9A. Have you got that? 


MS EASTMAN:  So was I right in understanding that this is a document designed or developed by DSS to identify where in the Commonwealth there are departments or agencies that may have particular interest or focus to achieve the priority areas in the ADS? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. But it's a   it's specifically focused on those portfolios or departments that have clearly identified paths or outcomes to achieve. It's not an exhaustive list of the work of disability across the Commonwealth. 

MS EASTMAN:  Right. So, one area that you've identified in that document is corporate plans. Now, yesterday we heard in Queensland that there's a statutory obligation on Chief Executives of Queensland departments to develop a plan, a Disability Service Plan in their relevant portfolio areas to the extent it's relevant to human rights principles and disability service principles. 


MS EASTMAN:  There's nothing in the Commonwealth that is a statutory requirement for any Secretaries of Commonwealth departments or heads of agencies to have to develop a corporate plan to address disability; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  I'm unsure of that answer, but there are responsibilities. First of all, the Commonwealth has signed up to the ADS so every Commonwealth entity is required to adhere to all of the outcomes for the ADS. There is, through the Australian Public Service Commission, they have a number of guides and supports for employing people with disability. In most Commonwealth agencies, they have a Disability Champion. I'm the Disability Champion for DSS. And a focus for DSS this year is about employment for people with disability. 

MS EASTMAN:  But in terms of looking at corporate plans   


MS EASTMAN:    it's not   the situation in the Commonwealth is not like Queensland where each department works to prepare a specific plan. 


MS EASTMAN:  The ADS, in a sense, is the plan   

MS MITCHELL:  Is the overarching, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:    that the Commonwealth departments work to. 


MS EASTMAN:  So, what do you expect to see where an agency or a department uses a corporate plan? What should be in a corporate plan and are there any examples of corporate plans that might be available   publicly available or for the Royal Commission to look at or review? 

MS MITCHELL:  I'd have to take that on notice. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. Appendix A or attachment B, depending on which part of the document you read, identifies lead ministers and policy priorities. So, is this, as you were saying before, identifying the particular minister and department that may have particular priority areas that attach to their portfolios? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct. 

MS EASTMAN:  And how has the exercise gone   how did you go about the exercise of identifying these particular ministries or ministers and/or their departments? Sorry, I'm rushing a little bit.

MS MITCHELL:  As I understand it, it was a negotiated position when the ADS was developed. 

MS EASTMAN:  Why isn't PM and C in here? 

MS MITCHELL:  So, as Ms Frame's evidence this morning, we have two Cabinet Ministers who have responsibility for disabilities, and so, PM and C, the same as every other department has responsibility for ensuring that all their policies and processes adhere to the obligations under the ADS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, does DSS have sufficient powers to enable that effective cross government coordination and influence across agencies that may be directly responsible for ADS priorities and those like PM and C, who Ms Frame said disability is part of the work they do, but they're not doing specific reports on it? Does DSS have sufficient influence to coordinate that across government? 

MS MITCHELL:  We   as Ms Frame mentioned, we have a significant number of IDCs in discussing how other government departments will implement, but we are   both our Cabinet Ministers are required to report through cabinet and that is the mechanism to hold other departments to account for their   for adhering to what they're required to do under the ADS. 

MS EASTMAN:  A year into the ADS, do you think that there is a need for a standing national disability coordination group that brings in Treasury, Finance and PM and C? 

MS MITCHELL:  The   a pre election commitment was to develop a disability coordination unit. That is still under discussion and that would be an opportunity to look at those   some of the key agencies being part of that process, yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  We heard yesterday Dr Amin referred to an initiative in Canada of a person who had oversight of disability sustainability across the Canadian agencies. It sounded a bit like a Commissioner or an Ombudsman type role. We don't have anything in Australia for a role of that kind in disability, do we? 

MS MITCHELL:  We   well, we have the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Gauntlett. 

MS EASTMAN:  But section 67 of the DDA does not set out functions for him of this kind. 

MS MITCHELL:  No. No, that's correct.

MS EASTMAN:  So, if there is a national approach to coordination, based on DSS's experience over the past year of coordinating the identification of priority areas, the development of outcomes, the development of the TAPs, what do you think needs to occur to improve the way in which the coordination operates across the Commonwealth? 

MS MITCHELL:  I haven't at this early stage identified a gap in the coordination. I have a team who, as you say, are collecting the data. We haven't yet seen the first report on the administration of the ADS, and so that's very difficult for me to answer at this stage. 

MS EASTMAN:  Can I now branch out from within the Commonwealth to the role of DSS in the coordination across Australia. We've touched on some of that. Is there room for a national disability coordination group that goes beyond the Commonwealth but operates with states, territories, and perhaps even local government, and key private sector organisations? 

MS MITCHELL:  I think there's always room for greater coordination of disability services. As I said, the key area across the Commonwealth and states and territories is the Disability Reform Ministers' Meeting, but as part of that we have what we call a Department Heads Meeting before and after the Disability Reform Ministers' Meeting, and I chair with all of my state and territory colleagues, including the Queensland colleagues who were here yesterday. There are several mechanisms but there is always room for greater coordination. 

MS EASTMAN:  Does there need to be something that connects the Commonwealth, and if DSS has that role at the present time, down to local government? To have a direct line into local government? Or does that still have to go through the states? 

MS MITCHELL:  I'm not sure of the answer to that question. I think that when we look at the standing up of the NDIS and the ADS, I think one of the areas that we need to watch for is that we don't have segregation between the NDIS participants and other people with disability. And I think that if you're talking about a broader   a broader coordination, I think that is one of the areas that I would identify as needing to have stronger coordination. However, having said that, in my   under my responsibility, I have a whole group for   that manages Australia's Disability Strategy, I have two groups that manage National Disability Insurance Scheme policies and programs, and I have another group that managing Disability Employment Services. So, there is a   there is a central coordination point through my role in the Commonwealth. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, just on the NDIS, the initial thinking for the NDIS was to approach the NDIS in three tiers. Tier 1, tier 2, tier 3. So, tier 1 is, in a sense, what we see the delivery of NDIS at the present time. Tier 2, am I right in understanding, relies heavily on the information, linkages, capacity building program, the ILC program, and that for the most part is providing grants to particular organisations. 

MS MITCHELL:  It was never envisaged that the ILC grant process would be supporting tier 2 supports. So, when the Productivity Commission first developed the original NDIS program, they were looking at   they were under the assumption that those tier 2 or mainstream supports that were in place when the NDIS was stood up would remain in place. 

I think that what we're finding   and, in fact, there was a recent Swinburne University report that talked about the fact that states and territory services, that while the reduction of those mainstream tier 2 services in state and territories is driving people to apply for the eligibility under the NDIS. The ILC is $136 million a year. It is not sufficient to be supporting or propping up mainstream services in health and education that are under the responsibility of the states and territories. 

MS EASTMAN:  So does that   is there a case, then, for a very careful look at tier 2 in the NDIS as to what tier 2 should be, and how it should be operating and bringing that into a broader disability framework that involves the ADS, so drawing those together? 

MS MITCHELL:  So Professor Bonyhady and Ms Lisa Hall, who are the independent reviewers of the NDIS, certainly are considering those tier 2 supports and how they're operating at the moment and how they best operate going forward.

MS EASTMAN:  Queensland in its response to the Royal Commission's request addressed the barriers. Some of the states and territories said not applicable or not at present. But Queensland this said on the barriers, is:

    "...the transition to the NDIS has created uncertainty in relation to the interface of specialist disability services and mainstream service provision. This lack of clarity impacts the effective implementation of the Strategy. The NDIS review provides the opportunity for greater clarity in relation to these interface issues which will assist to make supporting achievements under the ADS and, therefore, the CRPD more achievable."

Do you agree with the Queensland characterisation of this barrier? 

MS MITCHELL:  No, I don't. 

MS EASTMAN:  If there is a perception in Queensland that this transition to the NDIS has created an uncertainty about where disability services lie, either through the NDIS or there's still work for the states and territories to do, but that there needs to be clarity, even if you disagree with the perception, there's a need for clarity, isn't there? 

MS MITCHELL:  Absolutely, there's a need for clarity and I think   I think the   through   I'm reluctant to talk about APTOS and others because I'm not sufficiently across it to talk about it, but certainly there has been agreements about who is responsible for what services. And if   with respect to my Queensland colleagues, if they think that there's not clarity because they don't know what services are NDIS and what are not, I think that is making an assumption that the NDIS will pick up a lot of services which they weren't designed to do in the first place. 

MS EASTMAN:  But we have heard in the hearings in the Royal Commission of people caught between the gaps. 


MS EASTMAN:  I'll give you a very simple example. Kids going to school. 


MS EASTMAN:  Is their transport covered or not? Mr De Natris from the NDIS came and gave us a long list of things that are covered by APTOS and then a long list of things that aren't. We had parents in the middle saying, "We just need our kids to get to school. We don't really mind who's supporting us to do that." For some families with disability, that lack of clarity affects their day to day lives. 

MS MITCHELL:  I agree. 

MS EASTMAN:  So, how do we address clarity for people with disability using the NDIS but still relying on a range of services that the states and territories deliver in the ordinary course?

MS MITCHELL: But isn't that also the people with disability who are not participants in the NDIS still have a lack of those tier 2 supports. 


MS MITCHELL:  And that is why the lack of clarity remains because, as I've mentioned, the Swinburne University report indicates that the states and territories have reduced some of those mainstream supports, and I think that is why the clarity   the, sorry, lack of clarity has come in. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, it's also why I asked you a little earlier whether you accepted that there was still some unmet demand for supports for people with disability in addition to the NDIS and I think you agreed with that. 

MS MITCHELL:  I did. Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, do you think there's a perception that, well, the NDIS is here now, Commonwealth will pick up the tab for that, and that that may be encouraging a diminution of disability supports either as specialist services or in the mainstream setting? 

MS MITCHELL:  Well, if I can just quote Professor Bonyhady, he calls the NDIS an oasis in the desert and that because of   his commentary has been around the reduction of services then has made, as I said earlier, people point towards their eligibility under the NDIS. So, if I can say in that way. 

MS EASTMAN:  Something needs to be addressed for this reason as well, and that is when we asked the states about whether there was budget allocation for achieving the ADS   


MS EASTMAN:    most of the states and territories said no    budget allocation. It was part of the ordinary budget. Is that lack of commitment across Australian Governments to budgets allocated to achieving the ADS something that needs to be addressed in tandem with looking at this clarity in where does the NDIS start and end and where do states' and territories' services continue? 

MS MITCHELL:  Budgets allocated   Ms Eastman, I'm sorry, but the budgets allocated by states and territories are a matter for the states and territories so I can't provide comment on that. 

MS EASTMAN:  But the Commonwealth can't have it both ways, can it? It can't say we'll take the lead on the ADS, we'll lead with you on strategies, and then step back on what might be core issues in achieving success in the Strategy:  Data and budgets. 

MS MITCHELL:  The   well, the Commonwealth has been the lead in developing the ADS but it is a whole of Commonwealth and state and territory responsibility. Everyone has signed up. So, there's no one key lead for the ADS. 

MS EASTMAN:  Is one of the approaches to address some of these issue assist to revisit the National Disability Agreement and to look at strengthening the inter governmental agreements on disability? 

MS MITCHELL:  That could be one mechanism. 

MS EASTMAN:  I want to then, just in the time that we've got left, go to some issues about strengthening the ADS and just put a number of propositions. So, one is greater clarity in the roles of the Commonwealth, states and territories and whether that's to be done through inter governmental agreements rather than just left to an overarching Strategy. Would you agree that is something that may be a matter for consideration into the future? 

MS MITCHELL:  Well, that's a matter for government's consideration. 

MS EASTMAN:  One might be procurement and particularly if the ADS is to expand to bring in public sector is to   sorry, private sector, is, for example, for employers and those involved in delivering services, either to the Commonwealth or the states and territories, to link government procurement and contracts to private sector organisations, taking on responsibilities or action items identified in the ADS or any of the Targeted Action Plans? 

MS MITCHELL:  That certainly would be an option for the Commonwealth and that's one they've taken in other areas. 

MS EASTMAN:  If there are limitations in what DSS can do within its functions and powers in exercising its executive role, is there a place to legislate the ADS into Australian law and make it part of a Commonwealth law that has in it mechanisms for enforcing action and holding organisations, government or otherwise, accountable? 

MS MITCHELL:  That legislation of anything in the ADS is a matter for the government. 

MS EASTMAN:  We have heard Queensland's evidence yesterday that Queensland now has a Human Rights Act to give its effect to human rights that we find in international law, and the Queensland Human Rights Act makes provision for a review in mid next year, and that review must consider an expansion of the Queensland Human Rights Act to include rights in other international conventions, but relevantly for our discussion, the CRPD. So, are you aware of that? 

MS MITCHELL:  No, I'm not. 

MS EASTMAN:  So if Queensland takes the approach next year   and I'll put this as a hypothetical   that it needs to expand its legislative rights protections in Queensland to include CRPD rights, there's a risk, isn't it, that the states may end up going further on the implementation of the CRPD than the Commonwealth, which presently has no human rights framework in place that gives a mechanism of implementing the CRPD rights into Australian law. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's a hypothetical question but I   


MS MITCHELL:  That I'm    to answer.

MS EASTMAN:  Well, if the Commonwealth has got both the international obligations in relation to the CRPD, and it purports to have the leadership of bringing international law into the domestic realm, would it not be important for the Commonwealth to be leading from the front and leading ahead of the states in terms of using the CRPD into the domestic law to give effect to the CRPD right through domestic law? 

CHAIR:  I don't think Ms Mitchell can fairly be asked  

MS EASTMAN:  Alright. I'm just   if she's not making a comment on it.

MS MITCHELL:  No, I'm unable to make a comment on it. 

MS EASTMAN:  In terms of looking at the evaluation and the success of the ADS, it's the case, isn't it, that it also needs to take into account the existing Commonwealth laws concerning the rights of people with disability and principally the Disability Discrimination Act. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  The   of course, we would look at all of those things but the design of the evaluations hasn't yet commenced but we will. 

MS EASTMAN:  As that evaluation occurs, it's important to have regard to the legal framework as well as the policy framework. Do you agree with that? 

MS MITCHELL:  As we haven't designed the evaluation yet, I'm not in a position to talk to the legal framework. I don't have a legal background. And I am not completely across the entire legal framework. 

MS EASTMAN:  If the Advisory Council or the disability representative organisations or people with disability themselves said the Disability Discrimination Act is now 30 years old, it pre dates, for the most part, the CRPD, and it is now falling behind other Commonwealth laws like the Sex Discrimination Act which has a positive duty to eliminate sex discrimination and sexual harassment and it's falling behind other state laws which have positive duties or position papers from various Law Reform Commissions calling for positive duties, would there not be a case to review the effectiveness of the DDA as part of the review and the evaluation of the ADS? 

MS MITCHELL:  The DDA is the responsibility of the Attorney General's Department and so I don't have anything that I could say on that. 

MS EASTMAN:  One issue the Royal Commission has looked at is the past reports of other Law Reform Commissions and other inquiries and you may be aware the Royal Commission recently conducted a Public hearing looking at the shift from substitute decision making to supported decision making models. Is there a place for reviewing the ADS to ensure that the ADS framework works to achieve supported decision making in all of the priority areas? 

MS MITCHELL:  Yes, I would accept that. 

MS EASTMAN:  And is there also a role within the ADS to examine laws that interfere with people with disability autonomy? For example, guardianship laws or laws dealing with the financial administration of the estates of people with disability? Would that be something that the ADS could do? 

MS MITCHELL:  The ADS wasn't designed to look at the legal frameworks around guardianship. So, I'm not in a position to be able to answer that. 

MS EASTMAN:  And the other area is the importance of research. So, I think there's been some announcements this week in relation to the National Disability Research Partnership. 


MS EASTMAN:  And the importance of having centres, in effect   and I'll use this expression, but centres of excellence to bring researchers and people with disability together to develop a solid and strong research base to the work of the ADS; is that right? 

MS MITCHELL:  That's correct, yes. The government has committed $15 million. 

MS EASTMAN:  And then in terms of the role of advocacy, is there any part of the ADS that can look to supporting advocacy in disability generally, be it at an individual level or systemic advocacy, to give people with disability greater support to advocate for their rights and the opportunities to advocate for themselves in forums that will have a bearing or influence on the way in which governments make their decisions? 

MS MITCHELL:  We have quite an extensive advocacy framework for individual or systemic advocacy, and I think I've mentioned before that we're supporting people here appearing before the Royal Commission with advocacy services. But it's   it's integral to some of the outcomes under the   Australia's Disability Strategy that advocacy is part of that   part of that experience or opportunity. 

MS EASTMAN:  And this might be a difficult question so if you can't answer it, let me know. 

CHAIR:  Is this as distinct from the previous question?


MS EASTMAN:  Assume that the Royal Commission won't be here in nine years' time, but, Ms Mitchell, if you're still in your role in nine years' time, what do you think will be the most significant change for people with disability if the ADS achieves all of its objectives in the priority areas? 

MS MITCHELL:  My hope is that it doesn't take nine years. However, we were talking before about community attitudes, and they are key to achieving any outcomes for people with disability. So, if community attitudes were   if we weren't talking about people with disabilities but we were talking about universal design, universal accessible housing, that hospitals were set up for people with particular physical needs, that schools understood in the mainstream that people learn in different ways, that would be my hope that that   we would achieve that. Is that what you're asking me? I mean, that's   I mean, I am   

MS EASTMAN:  I'm not holding you to that as the outcome in nine years. But we've asked everybody in this hearing about their vision for an inclusive Australia, and I think people with disability are interested to know from those in government what you see the vision for an inclusive Australia to be. 

MS MITCHELL:  That is my vision, that   I mean, I think I've mentioned before that I'm also the mother of a person with a significant disability, and every day I see he's discriminated against in the hospital system, in accessible housing, in many, many ways, in his career, where he was on a very fast trajectory before his accident, and post his accident he hasn't moved at all in his career. So, my personal and professional hope is that we remove all of those attitudinal barriers. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Ms Mitchell. Chair. 

CHAIR:  Thank you very much. Thank you for your evidence. I again, Ms Mitchell, thank you for the material you provided in written form. I thank you for the evidence you've given today. It's been very interesting and, if I may say so, very helpful. 

MS MITCHELL:  Thank you.

CHAIR:  Thank you very much. 


MS EASTMAN:  Thank you Chair, so we have one more witness, and if everyone can bear with us, if we take a two  to five minute adjournment so we can just organise the video link, finish our last witness and some concluding results, we should be able to conclude before lunch.

CHAIR:  Mr Hodge from a distance may be looking slightly anxious. Perhaps I omitted to ask whether Mr Hodge wanted to ask any questions.

MR HODGE:  Thank you. I don't want to ask any questions. Thank you.

CHAIR:  Alright. We'll take a short adjournment.



CHAIR:  Yes, Ms Eastman. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you. Commissioners, I'm very pleased that our next witness and the final witness for the hearing will be Ms Julia Hales, and you'll see Ms Hales on the screen.


CHAIR:  We do. Thank you, Ms Hales, for coming remotely at least to the Royal Commission to give evidence. We appreciate your attendance and your willingness to help us with our inquiry. 

MS EASTMAN:  We're just ready to go straight in.

CHAIR:  Straightaway. In that case, if you will be good enough to listen to Ms Eastman, she will now ask you some questions, thank you very much. 


MS EASTMAN:  Thank you. I'm very pleased to welcome Ms Julia Hales, and Julia has told me she would like to be called Julia today. Julia is an actor, a writer and an advocate. This year, her stage production You Know We Belong Together, had shows at the Edinburgh Festival and very recently at the Sydney Opera House. Among other things, Julia has also presented a documentary in collaboration with the ABC called The Upside and she's now working on a new show called The New Bachelorette. I might ask her about that later. So, Julia, my first question is to you is can you tell me about yourself. 

MS HALES:  Yes. So, hi, I'm Julia. I'm 42 years old. I've been living independently here in Subiaco in Perth for 22 years. 

MS EASTMAN:  And, Julia, do you have   do you want to say any more about yourself before I ask you the next question?

MS HALES:  I love working with people with disabilities in the arts. 

MS EASTMAN:  Anything else? 

MS HALES:  No, that's it. Thank you. 

MS EASTMAN:  Okay. What I wanted to ask you about, do you have a vision for an inclusive Australia? And if so, what is your vision? 

MS HALES:  So, I've had a lot of opportunities in my life, like I did the Leaders For Tomorrow Program, I did Seek Leadership Program. I've been to WAAPA. I did a one year acting course for one year. Then I went back and did   I kind of did film and television. And also I had a great opportunity to work with Claire Watson at Black Swan State Theatre Company. She and I co written a script called You Know We Belong Together. 

MS EASTMAN:  Can I say, You Know We Belong Together, Julia, that came about because when were you little, you used to love, or you still love the program Home and Away. 

MS HALES:  That's right. 

MS EASTMAN:  When you were watching Home and Away when you were about eight years old, you said how come there's no one that looks like me on Home and Away?

MS HALES:  Yes, that's right, because I've been watching a lot of shows including Home and Away that had nobody with a disability on TV. And so I want to be the first woman with Down syndrome to be on Home and Away so I can show everyone out there that people with disabilities can do exactly the same thing. 

MS EASTMAN:  And I'm not going to give away what happens in your stage program You Know We Belong Together, but everybody, I think, will know that that's the song from Home and Away, We Belong Together, and can you tell the Commissioners whether you did actually get onto Home and Away the TV program?

MS HALES:  Yes, so I haven't really got onto Home and Away yet, but I did go to the set of Home and Away and I did do a bit of filming with Ray Meagher. And so he and I did a nice short film together and we put that on screen for the play that I did. 

MS EASTMAN:  And I'm going to say to everybody, it's such an excellent play, so if you have the opportunity to see it, please do. But, Julia, why is it important for people with disability to be represented in the media and in the arts? 

MS HALES:  It is fairly important to me for people with disability to get representation. Yeah, just to get that I voices to be heard and to hear them and what they want into this world. 

MS EASTMAN:  And do you think people with disability should be able to work in all types of jobs in the media and arts? For example, presenting, interviewing, acting, writing, but also deciding who should be in productions in casting? And, Julia, what are your views about the opportunities for people with disabilities to have these types of jobs in the media? 

MS HALES:  Well, because I know I had a lot of opportunities in my life and so I want to have people with disability to have the same opportunities that I did. And I'd like to see more opportunities for them. 

MS EASTMAN:  And can I ask you now about what do you hope in the future for your own career and your own life? I know that's a big question to ask you, but is that okay to ask you that question? 

MS HALES:  Yes. So, what I see in my future is to grow    to grow and to work with a lot of people with disabilities to hear them and their voices. So, I love working with them. So   and I'm also   part of my future is to be   trying to get onto Home and Away so people can see me on TV and they say, wow, she did it. That kind of thing for my future. But I   I just want to keep working with people with disabilities and to share their stories and to   to hear them. So, that's also part of my future. 

MS EASTMAN:  Julia, when you made the documentary called The Upside  

MS HALES:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:    you asked some very hard questions about community attitudes towards people with disability and in particular children born with Down syndrome. 

MS HALES:  Yes. 

MS EASTMAN:  You also celebrated the lives of people with Down syndrome in that documentary. Why was that documentary so important to make? 

MS HALES:  Well, it's very important to me, because I wanted to know more about people with Down syndrome. And so I interviewed doctors, parents and my dad to have more   I just wanted to know more about the Down syndrome people and what happened back to them, what happened to them back in the day. And so I did ask tough questions because I wanted to know more about that. And also I wanted to   to change other people's opinion on people with Down syndrome. 

MS EASTMAN:  You asked some really hard questions in that documentary about choices that women may have to make when they're having babies and you didn't   you weren't shy in asking the hard questions, were you? 

MS HALES:  No. No. Because I do understand it's their choice, but, you know, it really kind of upset me just a little bit because I thought when people have babies and they see them, and they've got this precious little baby with Down syndrome, but, yeah, I mean, it is quite hard and I   I did it very well. I know most people   one of the questions was terminated, but they have a choice so I kind of respect their decision, but then I have my own opinion. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, Julia, thank you very much for making The Upside and to ask the hard questions of Australia. Thank you also for sharing your experiences with the Royal Commission today. We thank you for your work in the arts and media. You have entertained Australians, informed Australians about living with disability and to talk about your hopes for the future. You will keep us watching Home and Away because we will be very keen to see you in a starring role. So, is there anything else that you would like to talk to the Royal Commissioners about today? 

MS HALES:  Yes, I would love to. So, for everyone from the Royal Commission, I want you to open your mind, like, for the whole world to see people with disabilities. Once you see them on the streets in the wheelchairs, people with disabilities and Down syndrome people, just to go up to them, and say, hi, hello, how are you, say nice to see you, and yeah. 

MS EASTMAN:  Well, Julia, a big thank you and thank you for being the last witness in our hearing today, and we wish you all the best of luck in your hopes for the future in your career and your life. Thank you very much. 

MS HALES:  Thank you, and thank you for this great opportunity.

CHAIR:  Julia, on behalf of all of the Commissioners I too thank you and endorse everything that Ms Eastman has said. We're very grateful to you for your evidence and for all the things that you are doing. You've added to the number of shows we have to watch, so we're going to make a list, and that will definitely include the work that you've done and will no doubt do in the future. So, thank you very much indeed. 

MS HALES:  Thank you. 


MS EASTMAN:  So, Commissioners, that concludes the evidence for this hearing, and there's just a few tenders of documents that I need to attend to. These are the documents covering the government evidence, Ms Mitchell's statement, Ms Frame's statement and the various material. So   

CHAIR:  I think there's a list. 

MS EASTMAN:  Have you got the list? So, we're basically marking exhibits from Exhibit 31 015 through to 31 024.

CHAIR:  Yes. Well, all the documents on the list, which I can't find but I know exists   where's it gone? Here, I've found it. All of the documents that are on the list   and, as you said, they go from 31 015 all the way through to 31 024.1   all of the documents in that list will be admitted into evidence and given the markings that appear in the document which I'll initial and date. 

<EXHIBITS 31 015 TO 31 024.1 AS PER THE LIST

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you, Chair. And we'll circulate a copy of that list to all the parties with leave and I think it will be on our website shortly. Thank you. Thank you, Commissioners.

CHAIR:  And directions?

MS EASTMAN:  Yes. Thank you for reminding me about that. Chair, you might have a set of directions which I understand have been agreed by the parties. We've accommodated the parties' with leave requests in terms of some of the dates. Do you have a copy of that?

CHAIR:  Yes, I do. 

MS EASTMAN:  Thank you.

CHAIR:  I'll read out the directions. If any party has any issue they want to raise, let me know after I've completed reading it, and otherwise these will be the directions that are made in respect of this Public hearing number 31. 

1.  By 12 January 2023, witnesses who took questions on notice during Public hearing 31 are to provide their answers in writing to the Office of the Solicitor Assisting the Royal Commission. The answers should be targeted and concise and not address additional or unnecessary matters. 

2. By 16 January 2023, parties with leave to appear who seek to tender further documents into evidence are to provide those documents to the OSA, the Office of Solicitor Assisting the Royal Commission, for consideration by Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission. At the same time, they should identify any parts of those documents that they consider need to be removed before the documents are made public. 

3. By 3 February 2023, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission will tender any additional documents into evidence in Public hearing 31 that she considers appropriate. 

4. Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission will prepare written submissions following the hearing. By 3 February 2023, these submissions will be provided on a confidential basis to parties with leave to appear and may be provided on the same basis to any witness or anyone who has received a procedural fairness letter from the OSA in preparation for Public hearing 31. 

5. By 3 March 2023, parties with leave to appear in Public hearing 31 who wish to make submissions in response to the evidence are to provide those submissions to the OSA. Any such written submission should be concise and should not include any additional evidence. 

I'll just pause for a moment to see if there's any disagreement with any of those five directions that I've just read out. If not, then they are the directions that are made in respect of this hearing. Ms Eastman, is there anything else from you? 

MS EASTMAN:  No, not from our part, other than to thank those who've contributed to this hearing and to wish everyone a safe and happy holidays.

CHAIR:  Thank you. I wish to conclude this, which is, as I've said previously, the final hearing for 2022 of the Royal Commission with a thanks to all of the witnesses who have appeared at this hearing over the last five days. It has been a very full hearing, and it has covered a very substantial number of issues and very   and has been a very wide scope. 

I want particularly to express the appreciation of the Commissioners to those people with lived experience of disability who have given evidence at the hearing. Some have given evidence of their own experiences. Others have given evidence of their own experiences and of the work that they have been doing through various organisations and various advocacy groups. And some have limited themselves to an explanation of the work that they have been doing and the organisations to which they belong. 

I specifically mention Summer Farrelly, who gave evidence about their experiences as an advocate for young people with a disability and as what she described as an educator of educators. Summer told us that inclusion means participating in society as your authentic self without having to change who you are and having your differences celebrated. 

Arty, who came here with his parents, Dr Samarra Toby and Massey Ruatara, gave evidence about the importance   the parents gave evidence about the importance of culturally safe supports for people with disabilities and their families.

Chloe Hayden spoke about the importance of people unlearning their biases and preconceptions around disability and relearning about disability from people with lived experience of disability. She also discussed and explained how authentic representation of people with disability in the media can positively influence both people with disability themselves, as well as the broader community, and we just heard from Julia, evidence to much the same effect. 

We heard from Dylan Alcott AO, the Australian of the Year for 2022. Dylan gave evidence that making Australia a more inclusive society requires us to challenge the perceptions of able bodied people about disability. He told us, among many other things, that people with disability are ready for change but it is the rest of Australian society that has to catch up. 

Evie and Breanna, students of Bus Stop Films, they told us about the importance of educational and vocational programs that are truly inclusive and supportive of people with disability. They told us that people with disability are everywhere in society, have a richness of diverse experiences and all have valuable stories to share, and they told us about their own stories which followed from their work at Bus Stop Films. 

Dr Tracey Corbin Matchett of Bus Stop Films, gave evidence about the importance of authentic casting of people with disability. She also explained how good stories can impact a person's perceptions of significant issues around us, including perceptions of differences and disability. 

Bill Cooper and Kyran O'Donnell, better known as The Brother Boys, gave prerecorded evidence about how sharing their authentic comedic selves and their relationship on social media has challenged assumptions about people with disability and First Nations people and we have just heard from Julia today about her vision for an inclusive society which involves a greater   among other things, greater representation of people with disability in the media and arts industry. 

We've heard from a number of experts, advocates and people involved in organisations. We heard, of course, from Professor Gerard Quinn, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Professor Quinn gave evidence about how the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability provides a framework for governments to enact laws, policies   implement policies and programs which respect, protect and enhance the rights of people with disability. 

Mr Harry Sillett of Vanguard Laundry gave evidence about the successes of that social enterprise and said that they had been driven by co design and co evaluation of the program by people with lived experience. And we also thank Mr Gates of Vanguard Laundry who provided a joint statement to the Royal Commission. 

Ms Natalie Daoud, Ms Andie Dalziell and Ms Liz Gearing of Just Like You gave evidence about how their program provides a safe and encouraging environment to discuss disability and inclusion in primary schools, a program which is led by facilitators with disability such as Ms Daoud. 

Dr Rillotta of Flinders University gave evidence about the Up the Hill program which provides students with intellectual disability with support to engage in tertiary education. 

Ms O'Kelly Kennedy and Nikaiya Payne of Red Dust Heelers gave evidence about their program which visits and supports people with disability from regional, remote and very remote communities around Australia, Indigenous communities to engage in sport, build a sense of community values and pride. Nikaiya told us that she is underway with her legal studies, and we took the opportunity of wishing her every success in those studies. 

Ms Beaver of the Deaf Queer Rainbow Project told us about the importance of recognising intersectional experiences in service provision. Intersectional experiences are something that is very important to the work of the Royal Commission. It is mentioned, of course, in the Terms of Reference and we have heard evidence throughout the 30   31 hearings that have been completed of the very great significance of multiple forms of disadvantage for people with disability, and we heard about that again at this particular hearing. Ms Beaver told us about the significance of purpose built and inclusive hubs that can act as safe places for information sharing, resource development and community building for people with disability, as well as the broader community. 

We also heard from Professor Paul Harpur and Ms Angel Dixon OAM. They gave evidence in a panel about practical ways to change attitudes in relation to people with disability. They spoke, particularly Ms Dixon, about the importance of language and of consistent interventions across all domains of life and the importance of role modelling that is provided by disability inclusive leadership which can challenge assumptions about people with disability in Australia. 

Ms Margherita Coppolino explained that inclusion means understanding, embracing and celebrating the differences of all people and recognising disability as part of the human experience. She gave evidence about the importance of advocacy and disability leadership in ensuring that decisions about people with disability should always involve and be jointly made with them, rather than in mere consultation with them. 

Dr Amin is the CEO of the Centre for Inclusive Design, she explained the concept of inclusive design and the importance of designing products, programs, services for what she described as edge users in order to develop the most innovative, accessible and inclusive solutions for all people. 

Mr Horsley, the cofounder of Remarkable, told us about the significant opportunities for co design and co production in the technological innovation start up space. He explained that people with disability are an under utilised and under recognised group of innovators, entrepreneurs and consumers who have much to offer their communities.

We also heard, of course, from witnesses from government and we are very grateful to each of those witnesses who contributed from the hearing. 

One reason for me mentioning the evidence that has been given, apart from recognising the people who were good enough to give that evidence to us, is to demonstrate just the range of matters that have been presented at this Royal Commission, an indication of the immense amount of work that has been done in preparation for this hearing. 

In common with other hearings, all hearings involve an enormous amount of work, but this one, I think it's fair to say reflects, the creative thinking, as well as the sheer hard work of all of those who have been responsible for preparing the hearing and for presenting the very great variety of evidence that we have heard. 

That includes, of course, the Office of Solicitor Assisting, the Policy Branch of the Royal Commission, the Engagement Branch which plays an important role, including through the counsellors who provide support to witnesses with lived experience of disability who may require support. Of course, the interpreters who do a sterling job and who, with this hearing as well as all other hearings, have had to cope with certain witnesses who have spoken at speed but have done so exceptionally well. And, of course, we have Law in Order who provide the technical assistance and cannot be blamed for the failure of internet systems and the like. 

I want to express the appreciation of the Commissioners, of course, to Senior Counsel appearing at this hearing, Ms Kate Eastman, who as usual has done an outstanding job, and we are immensely grateful for her. And I know that she would wish to express appreciation to the junior counsel who have been part of this hearing and played an indispensable role, Simone Fraser, Avelina Tarrago and Andrew Fraser, all of whom made very, very significant contributions to preparation and to the presentation of evidence. 

So, our thanks go to everyone. I join with Ms Eastman at wishing everyone associated with this Royal Commission, the witnesses who have appeared, the staff of the Royal Commission, Counsel, and the legal representatives of other parties, some of whom have been with us on many different   at many different hearings, we wish everybody a very safe, a very healthy and a very happy holiday period, and we look forward to seeing at least some of you, but for a much shorter time in 2023. 

That concludes business for 2022. Thank you again to everybody. We shall now adjourn.